I joined Legacy.com as a part-time content screener nearly 10 years ago. Though I’ve since moved to another position and no longer review condolences as part of my daily job, I reviewed more than one million condolence messages in my time as a content screener. My friends and family members would often ask me what it was like to read about death all day. And they were surprised when I told them, just as our CEO did in an earlier blog post, that my job wasn’t really about death – it was about life.
You see, condolence messages most often focus on happy memories and fun times. People write to celebrate their loved ones’ lives, not to dwell on their deaths. To illustrate, I took a random sample of Guest Book entries and created a word cloud to show the most commonly used words:
Those who know me know that I’m a bit of a math geek. So I also reviewed some data about what people talk about in entries. And here are some interesting things I learned about words Legacy.com users include in their condolence messages:
- 48% mention family
- 35% focus on faith, God, angels, and heaven
- 30% of users are praying for the friends and family of the deceased
- 30% talk about love
- There are ten times as many mentions of good as there are bad
- Twice as many people use the word life compared to death
- The formal word “condolence” is shared half as often as a simple “I’m sorry”
I think this really illustrates what the Guest Book is all about. People write in it on the occasion of a death, but the reason they’re writing is to remember a life. When we remember a life, we want to remember our favorite times, the happy things, the memories that give us joy – that’s what helps us get over the sadness of a loss. And that’s why people who share condolences in the Guest Book are five times more likely to mention laughter and smiles than crying and tears.